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11.01.15 Practice Makes Perfect Hebrews 10:1-18 Sermon Summary

by on November 2, 2015

Remember those black billboards from God, like: “They’re not called the Ten Suggestions”? Turns out they are suggestions.

Summary Points

  • How to hear Hebrews
  • How we approach God—the former way and the new way
  • How the new approach sets us free
  • The Ten Commandments in the new approach

The Newer Testament book called Hebrews is best thought of as a sermon, a preacher’s commentary on scripture, interpreting it for his or her day in light of Jesus Christ. That’s why Hebrews includes so many quotations from the Older Testament, and allusions to liturgy and ritual. One of the main points of the sermon of Hebrews is how we approach God.

Consider these verses, for example. Chapter four urges us to, “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The author promises, “a better hope, through which we approach God” in chapter seven. Later he (or she?) identifies Jesus as the one who is able, “for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Concluding the chapter we are considering here, the author says we may, “approach God with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” And as our passage begins, the author argues that the Law, as only a shadow of the good things to come, cannot perfect those who approach.

Hebrews was written to offer a new approach. To clearly see how radical the new approach is, let’s review the former approach. In the former approach God is distant, and mostly because of our sin, both individually and collectively. In fact, we have distanced ourselves. Then, out of grace, God gives us the Law in an attempt to restrain our sin. The Law also exposes our sin and makes us conscious of it. Newly aware of our sin, we conclude that God is also angry with us and must be appeased through death. We ritualized this human-divine drama with animal sacrifice.

The new approach taught by Hebrews starts from a different premise. Here God is close—close and ever closing in on those who are lost. Out of grace, God gives us the Law so we can understand what pleases him. What is God like? What is God’s character? This is what the Law teaches. Then in the Spirit, God puts the Law in our hearts and on our minds, but in our weakness we still sin, and so we still fear God.

Do you see the difference? In the former approach, sin separates us from God, we fear God, but sacrifice allows us still to approach. In the new approach, sin isn’t the issue. In the sacrifice of Christ sin has been forgiven. That our sin is forgiven is hard to believe, which means that what separates us from God now is not sin, but unbelief. We don’t believe God has forgiven us, so we still go about in fear managing our sin. We don’t believe that Christ has done that for us, and this unbelief separates us from God.

Last week we considered that Christ has set us free to love. We are free from the fear of condemnation, free from that understanding of the Law that is the former approach. Instead we are free to love our neighbor as ourselves—what Paul calls the “Summary of the Law.” Today we look at one way to actually go about it.

The basis of our freedom is that God has already forgiven us in Christ, the same basis for the new approach in Hebrews. Jesus’ death, Hebrews teaches us, eliminated the necessity for animal sacrifice. It revealed that animal sacrifice actually served to appease our guilty conscience, not God’s wrath.

With forgiveness assured, then, we are now free:

  • Free to live in the confidence in which Christ lived
  • Free to love God and neighbor
  • Free to pursue justice and peace
  • Free to explore our calling, not prop up our egos
  • Free to experience healing
  • Free to be honest about the past
  • Free to repent from sin—our own sins and the sin in which we live
  • Free to receive the wisdom of the past and to interpret it for the present
  • Free to be guided by such wisdom as the Ten Commandments

From this perspective, the Ten Commandments really are suggestions. They are invitations. We’re used to hearing them as warnings and threats from an angry, low-voiced, slow-speaking, insecure, male God barely restraining himself from, or even eager to punish us.

But can you imagine how our response to the Ten would change if we received them not as a threat but as winsome encouragement, as a guide for our lives? In this regard, I like to think of God like a docent in the museum of life. Docents are usually volunteers who love and are passionate about some topic and just want to share this with others. Museum docents hope to deepen the appreciation of others by guiding them through the exhibits.

God is the docent of life and wants to guide us to it. Jesus said he came, “that we may have life and have it to the full.” He said he, “gave his life for the life of the world.” His death puts an end to dying in order to survive a wrathful deity. Instead his death—and resurrection—shows the path to life: divine life.

All Saints Day invites us to walk through the museum of life with Jesus as our guide—our docent. As we walk through the exhibits, Jesus teaches us from the lives of those who have gone before us. He shares God’s excitement over them with us. And all the while the sense grows within us that someday our own portrait could hang in this museum of saints.

But to find your life, Jesus our docent teaches, you must lose it. We must lose it not to religious rules and regulations—making “the same sacrifices year after year” in the words of Hebrews. Instead we lose our lives to the person God is calling us to be, to the child of God we were created to be. We lose our lives to the Christ within us. The Ten Suggestions serve as one guide for how to live as Christ lived, how to love God and our neighbors.

And as we practice the Christian life, allowing Christ to live through us now, we will discover that we have been perfected, and that we live through Christ for eternity.

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